Japanese Thistle Herb (Da Ji)
What is Japanese Thistle Herb (Da Ji)?
Japanese Thistle Herb (da ji, 大蓟) refers to the perennial herbaceous plant Cirsium japonicum, which falls under the family Compositae. With showy flower heads that come in a variety of colours such as purple, pink, yellow and white, the plant’s flowers usually bloom from April to August. These flowers have an enlarged base that is green and spiny like leaves. Thistles can spread by seeds or underground root stalks called rhizomes.
Japanese Thistle can be found in most areas of China. In North China, people tend to use the aerial parts of the plant. In South China and Southwest China, people tend to use the roots of the plant. In East China, both the aerial parts and roots of the plant are used. The aerial parts of Japanese Thistle are usually harvested in summer or autumn when it blossoms, while the plant’s roots are harvested at the end of autumn.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Da Ji falls under the category of ‘Herbs that stop bleeding’. Such herbs tend to have hemostatic properties, which means that they can help to stop various types of hemorrhages and ecchymosis. Cool in nature, Da Ji can help individuals with too much Heat in their body, such as those experiencing a Yang Excess or a Yin Deficiency, to restore a harmonious yin-yang balance.
Bitter and sweet in taste, Da Ji can cleanse the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movement. Also, the herb can slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, Da Ji targets the Heart and the Liver.
Functions and Benefits of Japanese Thistle Herb (Da Ji)
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Da Ji has the following health benefits.
Da Ji can cool blood to stop bleeding, and is thus indicated for bleeding due to reckless blood flow caused by Heat in blood. For example, the herb can be used to treat epistaxis, hematemesis, hematuria, hemoptysis, uterine bleeding and metrorrhagia. As recorded in Speeches Collection on Materia Medica (Ben Cao Hui Yan, 本草匯言) , the juice of Da Ji’s fresh root or leaves are extracted and consumed to treat hemoptysis, hematemesis, metrorrhagia and metrostaxis. For traumatic bleeding, Da Ji is usually ground into powder and applied externally.
Da Ji can disperse Blood Stasis, reduce swelling and promote the generation of new flesh. Hence, Da Ji can be used topically for carbuncles, sores and swellings. It may also be used to address both internal and external abscesses.
In addition, Da Ji has beneficial effects on the gallbladder and can reduce jaundice, especially for jaundice caused by Damp-Heat. Da Ji is also used for hypertension as it can lower blood pressure levels.
How to Use Japanese Thistle Herb (Da Ji)
The recommended daily dosage of Da Ji is 10 – 15g. However, if you are using raw and fresh Da Ji, the dosage can go up to 30 – 60g.
To treat bleeding syndromes caused by blood Heat, Da Ji can be charred till scorched to increase its effectiveness in stopping bleeding. To reduce the harsh properties of Da Ji that may irritate the stomach, you can cook the herb in jujube dates and honey. Also, to reduce the toxicity of Da Ji, you can process the herb with vinegar.
To treat skin and external diseases due to toxic Heat, you can pound the fresh herb to extract its juice for oral consumption, or mash it for external application.
Cautions and Side Effects of Japanese Thistle Herb (Da Ji)
Da Ji should not be used by individuals who are experiencing signs of stomach or Spleen Deficiency, such as watery stools. Pregnant ladies should also avoid using this herb for the time being.
As Da Ji contains vitamin K, it may reduce the effects of certain blood thinners. Hence, if you are on medications such as warfarin, do not consume Da Ji together with your medicine.
Here is a summary for Japanese Thistle Herb (Da Ji):
- Herb name (Chinese): 大蓟
- Herb name (Pin Yin): dà jì
- Herb name (English): Japanese Thistle Herb
- Herb name (Botanical): Herba Cirsii Japonici
- Origin of species: Cirsium japonicum DC.
- Part(s) of herb used: Aerial plant
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Most parts of China
- Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet, bitter; Cool; Administrates the Liver and Heart Meridians
- Actions: Relieves bleeding symptoms; Eases inflammatory conditions
Ishida, H., Umino, T., Tsuji, K., & KOSUGE, T. (1987). Studies on antihemorrhagic substances in herbs classified as hemostatics in Chinese medicine. VII. On the antihemorrhagic principle in Cirsium japonicum DC. Chemical and pharmaceutical bulletin, 35(2), 861-864. [Accessed on 17th January 2023]
Yin, J., Heo, S. I., & Wang, M. H. (2008). Antioxidant and antidiabetic activities of extracts from Cirsium japonicum roots. Nutrition research and practice, 2(4), 247-251.[Accessed on 17th January 2023]
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